Fathers and Sons

fatherandson photo

My father was an absent man and perhaps that is why his presence appears more often now, once I have opened my memory bank.  When my brother and I were growing up, he was gone most of the time, traveling and making a living for his family.  But before his travels grew to Gulliver proportions and we started school, my father spent Saturday mornings with us.

For some reason my mother left on Saturday mornings, whether to shop or just have some time for herself, but what mattered was that Bjorn and I got to climb up on our parents’ bed, where my father, not a morning person, spun the most marvelous yarns.

Of course we did not know he was a fiction maker or fabulist.  And I don’t think later in life, when he was firmly entrenched in remaining honest in a business world that was not, those who came into contact with him knew about this part of his inner life.  And by then we, too, had forgotten, the chasm or gulf had closed.  Not as if by magic but by the hard life of a business man in sales on the road.

Saturday mornings in Stora Harrie, Sweden, were a wonderful world.  We learned of Mats and Olle, two boys who were outside playing and fell asleep atop a small hill that had comfortable grass to lie on.  Mats and Olle then were able to observe and understand adventures involving ekorre hissen, which for some strange reason was used by the squirrels to travel up to a nest of birds.  Into this nest a magpie dropped a silver spoon.  Logic was out the window, the animals never brutally interacting, and everything made sense.  Then, inevitably, the two boys, Mats and Olle, woke up after yet another adventure.

It never occurred to us, certainly not consciously, that Mats and Olle were us, and we did not yet know that my father was drawing from his vast knowledge of mythology to tailor a story finer than any gift someone could have bought us with money.

What saddens me now is that I do not remember the stories my father told us.  But, strangely, I experience a kind of warmth when I write about these mornings my father the story-teller spent with my brother and me.  It was also one of the few times we did not feud, I bite him or he chase me with a feather, pick your sibling rivalry antics of the moment.

What saddens me more than not remembering the stories is that my father never wrote these stories down.  Perhaps he was too tired when he finally set down his suitcase in hotel room after hotel room.  I know that he read a great deal, perhaps he needed someone to tell him a story, and that I understand.

My father would have made such a great story teller if he could have done so “for a living.”  Instead he had to march to the drumbeat of a captain of industry, and while I never heard him complain (he never complained about anything), his silence became protracted as the years went by.  I wonder if he was telling stories inside of his head.

These are the types of questions one asks when one approaches or reaches middle age; realizes the sacrifices one makes even if one likes going to work.  I also realize that the older I get, the fewer choices are available, or the paths narrow, as my father used to tell me when I was a clueless teenager.

I hope the inner story-teller, sculptor, painter, patio-brick layer, gardener, knitter, singer, chef lives in and outside of you, and you take the steps necessary to practice what you love besides work.  And if you can, leave something tangible behind of your adventures outside of work for your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, friends.

This has been a son who happened to become a professor celebrating the life of and eulogizing his father.


2 thoughts on “Fathers and Sons

  1. My grandfather–whom I and my brothers saw but once a year, most of early lives–was also a gifted story teller, though in his case it was tales of his childhood, of he and his brother playing pranks, or of his early adulthood, eking out a living as a musician in pre-union Chicago. The related memory of injustice at the hands of unscrupulous music hall owners, is one reason I am so committed to unionism of any sort today.

    Wonderful family stories–and never written down. Only a handful committed to my memory. (My favorite being the tale of the percussionist who had to look over his shoulder to strike the chimes at the moment he was cued by the director; and one night, the director noted the percussionist was facing his chimes, not looking over his shoulder, as the crucial moment approached. Beads of sweat breaking out, the conductor prepped the cue, continuing to see nothing but the back of the percussionist’s head; he gave the cue, praying for a miracle; and, still not looking around, the percussionist hit the note in perfect time: He’d fashioned a rear-view mirror to the frame of the chime.)

    Along with the tales were the secret words of my grandfather and his brother. I can call but one of them forth from the tides of half a century now: strinney-abay!

    Leave that record for posterity, aye.

  2. My hubby is a story teller and one of my children’s favorite memories is of their dad sitting in the hallway, earshot of all bedrooms, telling his “make-up” stories. I am so sorry that I didn’t write them down.

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